‘It’s awe-inspiring’

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Next month’s total solar eclipse is expected to confuse the heck out of animals and create some bizarre behavior — so scientists are staking out zoos and asking people to take notes on their pets for data.
During the last total eclipse in the US in 2017, flamingos encircled their babies to protect them, giraffes galloped around their enclosure, huge flocks of birds abandoned their flights to roost in trees and ancient Galapagos tortoises started mating, according to USA Today.
“Animals simply don’t know what to do with eclipses because [the sky phenomenons] are not something their biology is adapted for,” said Andrew Farnsworth, a visiting scientist at the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology who used 143 weather radar stations to study different types of birds in 2017.
3 Allison O’Neill (center) watched the initial phases of the 2017 solar eclipse in South Carolina — and was stunned by the behavior of nearby goats.
“Eclipses aren’t common but they’re not rare, and we humans can plan for them,” he told the outlet. “But for short-lived animals that may not be tracking astronomy with math, it’s pretty unexpected.”
The upcoming total eclipse will pass over North America on April 8, starting in Mexico and forming a northeasterly diagonal line stretching from Texas to Maine and New Brunswick, Canada.
It will cross New York’s Adirondack Mountains at around 3:25 p.m., according to NASA.
Allison O’Neill, who watched the Aug. 21, 2017, eclipse in Clemson, SC, recalled to The Post that as darkness set in during the early afternoon, nearby goats quickly went from talkative to silent and assumed a resting position.
“The goat’s behavior was so remarkable, it almost started distracting us from watching the eclipse to turning our attention to what was happening with the goats because it was so deliberate and so sudden,” O’Neill said.
“As soon as it [the eclipse] passed over, they all just started talking again.”
3 People are urged to watch their pets closely during next month’s total solar eclipse and then report their findings to scientists. Getty Images
Adam Hartstone-Rose, a professor of comparative anatomy at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC, and dozens of other observers studied 12 exhibits at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, SC, during the 2017 eclipse.
“I thought it was going to be nonsense, I didn’t think animals were going to be affected at all,” Hartstone-Rose told the outlet.
But during the 150 or so seconds that the zoo was engulfed in total darkness, nearly all of the animals studied changed their behaviors, except for the bears, who seemed totally nonplussed, he said.
This time around, Hartstone-Rose is scaling up animal observations at different zoos in the path of totality around the country.
He himself will be at the Fort Worth Zoo, where he is set to study the behavior of bonobo apes.
3 An estimated 44 million people live in the path of the upcoming total solar eclipse, which will stretch from Mazatlan, Mexico, to Newfoundland. AP
“They’re very sexual animals,” he said. “When they get stressed out, their reaction is to have sex. I’m very curious to see if they react by mating.”
Scientists have also invited people to observe their pets.
“They’re going to react more to our reactions, our excitement and our anxiety than anything actually from the actual eclipse,” predicted Dr. Rena Carlson, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
A project called SolarEclipseSafari.org invites citizens to record their own observations about the behavior of wild, farm and domestic animals during the eclipse.
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“We’re hoping to have thousands watching,” Farnsworth said.
NASA has also invited Americans to record the sudden sound of silence that is once again expected when the sky abruptly turns dark.
Birds and insects are known to go suddenly silent during total eclipses.
Soaring birds such as turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks tended to roost during an eclipse because they depend on the sun’s energy to soar, Farnsworth explained.
Foraging birds also leave the sky as they would at night because they can’t see insects as well.
“Just listen and look,” Farnsworth said. “It’s easy to get wrapped up in the technology. It’s really important to do the observations with your eyes and ears and make the connection to nature that comes with that.
“It’s awe-inspiring.”

webintern@dakdan.com

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